Shavuot, or Why Sinatra Was Wrong (Shavuot 5783)
The famous song “My Way”, popularized by Frank Sinatra, is problematic.
For starters, the music belongs to a 1967 French song called “Comme d’habitude,” (“as usual”) by Jacques Revaux. Paul Anka bought the rights, and after a dinner with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of mob guys” in Florida, wrote a new version of the lyrics that, he thought, would fit Sinatra’s persona.Read more
After the Siren: Yom Hazikaron 5783
Israel has two major memorial days: Yom Hazikaron—the remembrance day for fallen soldiers of Israel and Israeli terror victims—and Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah, Holocaust and Heroism memorial day. One is a reminder of the cost of having a Jewish State; the other is a reminder of the cost of not having it.Read more
Overcoming Learned Helplessness (Passover 5783)
The concept of “learned helplessness,” coined by psychologist Martin Seligman, became the cornerstone of his groundbreaking positive psychology theory that now helps millions overcome depression and anxiety.
Seligman observed laboratory animals that were subjected to random, unavoidable, mild electric shocks. Understanding that they would be shocked regardless of their behavior, trapped in an environment they could not escape, these animals cowered in lethargy and apathy. Resigned to their fate, they simply waited for the next blow, convinced that they were helpless to avoid it.Read more
The Story of the Diaspora in a Nutshell (Purim 5783)
Let’s face it, on Purim we Jews look pathetic. Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be a happy holiday in which we were miraculously saved, but for me, Purim inspires more shame than joy.Read more
Climate Change, Delayed Gratification and Tu Bishvat (Tu Bishvat 5783)
At this time of the year, three years ago, I wrote about Stav Harari and Dean Shoshani. They were both 25 and had just started their lives together in a new apartment in the colorful Hatikvah Quarter in South Tel Aviv. Dean was ecstatic, telling his sister, “my dream is coming true every day.”Read more
A New Tool for Fighting Antisemitism
Fighting antisemitism can be a Sisyphean task. We’ve been pushing that boulder up the slope for three thousand years, and yet we need to keep pushing.
Sometimes I feel that it’s like cutting your nails; they keep growing back. And yet, what can we do? We keep cutting them and we keep improving the implements we use to do so.
Shine a Light is, maybe, one of the best new nail clippers in the market.Read more
Building Permanence Among the Temporary (Sukkot 5783)
While generally not a fan of dystopian fiction, I recently fell for one such book: “The Second Sleep” by Robert Harris. A page-turner murder mystery, it takes place in 31st-century England, a time in which civilization has reverted to a new Middle Ages.
The narrator in the story has only a vague knowledge of our civilization but knows that it was a mighty one, full of hard-to-fathom technological wonders (although he struggles to ascertain the meaning of the “emblem of the bitten apple” that can be seen in bizarre artifacts ). Interestingly, in this dystopian future, there’s virtually no trace of our gravity-defying skyscrapers. As the narrator explains, our modern style of construction, with iron and steel beams inserted in concrete casing, is deceptively fragile. The glass that covers modern buildings doesn’t decay, but it breaks and falls off. When that happens, the building is exposed to the elements, small cracks in the concrete allow moisture to penetrate, and the iron beams end up rusting, eventually bringing down the entire structure. In the novel, London is dotted with reddish-brownish stains where skyscrapers used to stand, like monuments to the futility of human hubris.Read more
When Believing Is 'Seeing' (Rosh Hashanah 5783)
The Anton-Babinsky Syndrome has puzzled doctors since antiquity. It’s a rare condition in which the patient has lost vision but is convinced, often quite adamantly and despite clear evidence of their blindness, that they are capable of seeing.
Although neurologists Gabriel Anton and Jean Francois Babinsky wrote about the illness (scientifically called “anosognosia”) in the early 20th century, they were not the first ones to notice it. Seneca, for example, tells the story of an enslaved woman who had become blind but argued that she could see, often describing rooms in great imaginary detail. French Renaissance philosopher Montaigne writes about a similar situation involving a nobleman.Read more
Mourn the Past, But Build a Better Future (Tisha B'Av 5782)
I thought about Tisha B’Av recently, as I stood in Jerusalem’s Davidson Archeological Park (thank you, William Davidson Foundation!). There, you can walk on the very street that Jews used, 2,000 years ago, to ascend to the Temple of Jerusalem. You can see the remnants of the stairs that led to the Temple entrance though Robinson’s Arch, the oldest overpass in the world, and most poignantly, you can see the stones from the Temple compound that Roman soldiers threw onto the street below as they destroyed the holy site. As if one needed proof, one of those stones is inscribed with the words “lebeit hatoke’a,” meaning, the place from which the shofar was sound in the Temple’s esplanade.Read more
Shavuot Made Me a Zionist. Here's Why.
Shavuot made me a Zionist.
Well, maybe it wasn’t just Shavuot, but that holiday played an important role. Why? Because when you grow up in the Southern Hemisphere, the Jewish holidays make you keenly aware of being in the wrong place; especially those that, like Shavuot, have a strong seasonal component.Read more